Cutter Retires After 40 Years at Numerica Helm

Not many executives leave a legacy in their industry to the extent that Dennis Cutter will when he retires from Numerica Credit Union next month.

During Cutter’s 40-year watch, Numerica grew from a credit union with eight employees, 3,000 members and $2 million in assets, to become one of the biggest in the northwest. Currently Numerica’s assets top $1 billion. There are 315 employees and 90,000 members.

Due to his great achievements, his staff surprised him by naming the headquarters building after him.

“I have been very fortunate to have a great management team and dedicated staff. They are the cornerstone of our success,” Cutter reflects as he prepares to clean out his office. “And I can’t sign off without recognizing my progressive board of directors.”

The modesty is typical of a man who recently got in the car and made surprise visits to several Spokane social service agencies to give them $5,000 checks in support of their community service. Numerica’s staff donated $220,000 in time and funding to charities last year.

“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” said Cutter. “All of those organizations have done an excellent job helping women and children and we’re proud to support them.”

Numerica’s roots go back to the depression era expansion of railroads in the northwest. Railroad workers pooled their modest savings to create the Spokane Railway Credit Union. The rail industry was the backbone of the credit union for decades, and Cutter personally shares that tie. He worked his way through college as a railroad machinist. In 1967, he was offered a night job doing some of the accounting for a small credit union. He kept his day job though until he was sure he could succeed in the business environment. It did not take long.

“My big claim to fame was that I could run 2,000 accounts on a ten key and not make a mistake,” the former chairman of the Washington Credit Union League recalled.

His path up the ladder from small to large credit unions, from accounting to chief executive, also found him serving in a leadership role on the Credit Union National Association’s World Affairs Committee. He had a front row seat and an influence on the development of credit unions on six continents. He found “village banking” by credit union communities in the Philippines to be especially rewarding. Twenty-five member groups of small-business women took responsibility for helping their communities financially and never missed a payment.

Cutter recalls attending a rally attended by 10,000 participants celebrating village banking. “To be on that stage and see 10,000 women at a rally was incredible; it was just incredible to hear their stories.”

Cutter’s contributions to the credit union movement earned him the National Credit Union Foundation’s Herb Wegner Memorial Award, one of the industry’s highest honors, in 2006.

Cutter knows that over-regulation will continue to make it a challenge for credit unions to provide the best service to their members. The regulation is necessary in some cases, Cutter notes, but he applauds the work of industry advocates working for more reasonable regulations and examinations.

Cutter will turn his duties over to incoming CEO Carla Altepeter at the end of August and plans to relax, enjoy traveling, golf and projects at home.

 

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